The International Brigades by Giles Tremlett review – fighting fascism in Spain

This overarching history of the Brigades who fought in the Spanish civil war is a impressive collection of testimonies and captivatingly readable

“We shall not forget you, ” predicted the notorious Spanish communist and opera singer known as LaPasionaria, addressing the surviving International Brigades as they varied Barcelona in October 1938, with Franco’s victory in the Spanish civil war nearly complete: “And when the olive tree of conciliation is in flower … return! ” In mid-September 2020, the Spanish cabinet made a singular gesture in the same spirit: approving a draft of a brand-new “democratic memory” law, which would volunteer citizenship to the heirs of those same volunteers. “It is about period we said to these heroes and heroines of republic: thanks for coming, ” Deputy PM Pablo Iglesias wrote.

It will be a highly unusual piece of legislation, but one which is available to a unique instant in 20 th-century history, where the engine of political change was in overdrive across Europe, to the point that voluntaries hastened in their thousands to fight fascism and attack republic in a foreign estate, in the face of their own government’s indifference. There exist few similarities either before or since, although the journeying of some volunteers to help the Kurds fighting Islamic State is one striking objection. For the late academic and writer David Graeber, whose leader volunteered to fight fascism in Spain, the resonance was especially pain; he argued in the Guardian that the west’s abandonment of the struggle in Rojava, Syria, was tantamount to letting history repeat itself.

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Read more: theguardian.com